Advice on Buying Your First Sewing Machine

Most of the people I teach have never touched a sewing machine before.  This goes for both grown-ups and children.  I start them out on my studio machines and once their confidence builds they are energized to purchase a machine of their own.

They have lots of questions - what brand machine should I buy, where should I get it, what features do I need?  I'd like to share with you the advice I give to my students.


Buying your first sewing machine is an exciting adventure.  But it can also turn disappointing really quickly.  As a novice sewist, it can be hard to know if your new machine is broken or if maybe you just don't know what you are doing.

To help eliminate some of the early sewist's uncertainty, and boost beginning sewist's confidence, I strongly recommend that whatever machine you go with that you purchase from a reputable sewing machine dealer.  

There are affiliate links in this post. Read my full disclosure here.

What's a sewing machine dealer and why would I want to buy from them?

A dealer is someone who specializes in the brand of sewing machine you are buying. They know the ins and the outs, the limits and the features and they know what's new.  They provide "getting to know your machine classes" with the purchase of your machine, repair and maintenance service. Above all, with a good dealer you have an ally to call when your machine is just not behaving as you expect it to.

You will pay more for a sewing machine from a dealer than from Walmart, but as a beginner you will find the investment pays itself a hundred-fold when you have that first "Am I crazy?" phone call answered. How do you know if your dealer is reputable, ask your experienced sewing friends and check online reviews (but take these with a grain of salt).

What kind of machine should I buy?

If your sewist is young, I recommend a simple mechanical machine.  Hands down the most popular sewing machine at camps is my 3/4 Size Hello Kitty Janome machine. Not because it's Hello Kitty, but because the highest speed is about 3/4 the speed of a regular machine. Speed control is one of the most challenging things for a young sewist to master.

A basic mechanical machine with a handful of stitches is all most sewists ever need. Truthfully, for most adult sewists a basic mechanical is really enough machine for you. Clothing, simple blankets, pillows and even zippers and button holes are all achievable on a basic mechanical sewing machine. If mint green Hello Kitty isn't your style, try the Janome 3128.



Quality computerized sewing machines are typically much more expensive than a mechanical machine. They offer a wide range of features from speed control, automatic thread cutter, super easy button holes, to 100s of stitch patterns including simple alphabets.  Purchased from a dealer a computerized sewing machine will last a lifetime of sewing projects. If money is no object, go computerized and get the best you can afford

What do I sew on? 

I'm flattered you want to know! To be honest, I have about 8 different sewing machines, including 2 embroidery machines and a serger. My current favorite is a Juki HZL-F600, a workhorse of a computerized sewing machine.

I love it because it is heavy duty and can sew through any fabric, it has a knee-operated presser foot lifter, speed control, automatic thread cutter, reverse button, super fancy buttonhole foot and about a zillion fancy stitches. That said, I sew a lot.  I mean daily and sometimes for several hours at a time. You really don't need a this machine, but it is heavenly if you don't mind the hefty price tag.

My favorite brands are Janome, Kenmore, Babylock and now Juki.

Here are my final sage words on your purchase...

The machine you get should be determined by what and how much you plan to sew now and in the future. And of course, what your budget will support.  This is another place where a good sewing machine dealer is priceless.  Share with them your sewing needs, wants, expectations and budget, and a good sewing machine dealer will be able to guide you to the right machine for you.


Are you local to Raleigh, NC?  I cannot say enough about Carolina Sew &Vac on Capitol Blvd. in Raleigh. They have provided impeccable support and service for my Babylock embroidery machine. 

Have a dealer you love?  

Share their information below so others can share in your good fortune of having a great sewing machine dealer.


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